India’s complexity as a multi-cultural entity is probably much more than even a continent like Europe. A person from Tamil Nadu is so different in looks, attitudes and appearance from a person from, say, Punjab that one may happily spend one’s life ferreting out exceptions.
This also makes Indians inherently racist in a unique sort of way. We are racist towards our own countrymen! Having spent the last 8 years of my life in six mini-metros, I have been subjected to so many regional idiosyncrasies that I am now racist towards even Bengalis!
I felt, there are two specific themes that differentiate the various regions the most.
Auto / Taxi drivers
Drivers of hired public transport have always been second only to General Dyer in the Most Hated List of Indians. It is a confirmed fact this is the only one group of people on whom public opinion is unanimous and every Indian has at least 3 stories to prove the hypothesis.
How do auto/taxi drivers behave in different cities?
You are late for a flight. You are not flying Deccan so there is no chance of delay. You are in a cab and want it to go faster. You communicate the same to the driver. Boss, thoda jaldi / Swalpa bega banni / Kunjam speed, Guru / Dada, ektu taratari...
Following are the (translated) responses you will get in:
Bombay: Will you give me 50 bucks extra? (If you agree, you will either die in a road crash or reach ahead of time. No half measures for the Mumbaikar.)
Madras: Sir, there is a 40 km speed limit. If I go past that, they will impound my license, confiscate the vehicle and arrest you as per the new law passed by the new government on the 27th of last month. (Precise. Logical. Useless.)
Delhi: Haanji sir. Right away sir. Your wish is my command sir. (And you will miss the flight.)
Calcutta: (Loudly) Go in your own vehicle if you are in such a hurry. (Sotto voce) These people behave as if they have bought your soul by paying the hundred rupees cab fare. (No explanations required.)
As some wise man said, “Everyone needs toys. Only the prices vary.” And what use are toys if you cannot flaunt them? After all, an arm candy is designed to be on the arm!
So, the candies of the regions are as follows…
Bachelor’s degree / IIT Rank / GRE Score / IIM graduated from / Company worked for / all of the above.
So you have wedding cards, which proclaim the wedding of Shivaramakrishnan Krishnamurthy (BE, IIT Madras / MS, Carnegie Mellon / Microsoft) to Santhanalakshmi Gopalakrishnan (BCom / CA / Ernst & Young). Of course, the groom is the son of Krishnamurthy Chengalvaryan (BA / HLL) and the bride is the daughter of Gopalakrishnan Satyamurthy (BE / TELCO).
If you notice the subtleties, only the blue-chip education & employment brands are highlighted.
Everybody here is known by the place they stay in. Ganpati Chawl in Borivali loses to Raheja Residency in Andheri loses to Sea Princess in Bandra loses to Samudra Mahal in Worli loses to Maker Towers in Cuffe Parade loses to NCPA penthouse on Nariman Point.
The food chain is perfectly defined and your bhao is absolutely proportional to your position on the same.
A completely-past-his-prime Prahlad Kakkar ends up giving the maximum number of sound bytes simply because he stays in the same building as Sachin Tendulkar and Aishwarya Rai.
Shah Rukh Khan was the king of box-office for several years before he purchased a house on Bandra Land’s End. It was only with Mannat that he was acknowledged to be the Badshah of Bollywood and not some riff-raff from Delhi.
Abhishek Bachchan may give superhits by the dozen but only after he moves into the rumoured flat in Bandra that he can be considered to be the inheritor to the mantle of the man who owns the most famous address in tinsel town. Not before!
If you don’t have them wheels, then you ain’t made it in this town, pardner!
Delhi is all about having a big car, bigger stereo, leather seats and alloy wheels to go with it. And while you are it, you might as well put in the ‘this car is backing up’ recorded message in an American drawl!
When India’s biggest star gets a Bentley in Bombay, it creates a furore in the press. A pony-tailed owner of dubious management schools in Delhi has one too! Nobody raises an eyebrow even. While millionaires many times over are hanging out of 9:40 Fast, every Tom, Dick and Harpreet is zipping around in a Honda City. Delhi is all about cars… the bigger, the better.
Think about it… Salman Khan is one of the biggest stars of India and all he can afford is a Pajero to crush pavement dwellers with. The son of a Delhi businessman does the same with a BMW.
Okay, everybody who has even read the name of this blog would know that I have more than a small soft spot for Calcutta. So, I was about to conclude that – for better or for worse – this is one city, which has risen above the material comforts of life and has eschewed status symbols. Plain living, high thinking and all that! I was wrong, after all…
There is this friend of mine who is a true blue Bong. He is perennially embarrassed about his high-paying job, his Bandra flat and generally all trappings of corporate success. So, I thought him to be quite incapable of flaunting symbols.
But the other day, he messaged me – “They have made me a Platinum Member.”
Even he has changed, I thought, as I messaged back – “Of what? The American Express credit card?”
“No, idiot”, he replied, “The Fabmall Book Club.”